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ACU Remembers: Dr. Carl Brecheen

By on December 19, 2019 in ACU Remembers with 23 Comments

Teams and teamwork personified the life, work and ministry of Dr. Carl Brecheen (’52), who died Dec. 19, 2019, in Abilene at age 90.

A memorial service for the beloved Abilene Christian University professor emeritus of Bible, missions and ministry will be Monday, Dec. 23, at 2 p.m. at University Church of Christ (733 E.N. 10th St., Abilene, Texas 79602), with a visitation at 10 a.m.

carl brecheenStarting in 1961 as an assistant professor of Bible and religious education, Brecheen retired from ACU in January 2007. For all of those 46 years he served as a professor of Bible and religious education, well known for his Family Relations course that packed Walling Lecture Hall every single semester until he moved to the Teague Lecture Hall in 1990 when the new Onstead-Packer Biblical Studies Building opened. The course is still in the university’s Catalog but no one else has ever taught it.

Brecheen directed ACU’s Bible Teachers Workshop from 1966 well into the ’90s, succeeding Dr. LeMoine Lewis (’36). In 1970 he took over leadership of Abilene Christian’s annual Bible Lectureship (now known as Summit) from Dr. J.D. Thomas. He directed Lectureship until 1993 during an era when up to 12,000 people annually flocked to Abilene for the four-day February event that included dozens of speakers, hundreds of classes and a long list of special events. A 1989 feature story in the Abilene Reporter-News was headlined, “Mr. Organization.” Brecheen, typical of his genuinely cheerful and humble outlook, downplayed his role, saying he just took what Thomas had created and fine-tuned it a bit here and there with the help of his secretary.

For most people, that would be enough – that and a private marriage and family counseling practice, and serving as an elder at the University Church of Christ where he was education director from 1961-74.

“Carl had the uncanny ability for organizing complex events, all the while appearing calm and happily engaged with those around him,” said ACU provost Dr. Royce Money (’64). “He was among the best I have ever seen at that style of leadership.”

Brecheen’s broadest influence, however, began in 1974 when he partnered with his best friend and college roommate Dr. Paul Faulkner (’52) – now professor emeritus – taking their three-day Marriage Enrichment Seminar to more than 90,000 couples in 33 states and seven countries. Thousands more watched the Marriage Enrichment videos or read their book: What Every Family Needs: Whatever Happened to Mom, Dad & Kids?

“There is no way to measure the enormous influence of the Brecheen and Faulkner Marriage Enrichment Seminar series,” Money said. “For tens of thousands of couples, the weekend experience with Carl and Paul turned their marriages in a more godly relationship that re-shaped the direction of their life together.”

Brecheen and Faulkner met as 18-year-old freshmen at ACU.

“We happened to be walking from the church, where we’d met, to the dormitory where he was living,” Faulkner recalled.

Heavily recruited for his talents in track and field, Faulkner was in the “A dorm” where the other student-athletes lived. But after only a day or two he learned Brecheen had not been assigned a roommate, so he packed up his stuff and moved in with Carl.

“We were just uniquely tied together immediately. We could talk about anything. We could confess that we were down, that we were up. Never had any confrontation, but were tied together by heart, by conversation,” Faulkner said. “We were just close from the very outset to the very end.”

The two made quite the pair when they spoke together from stages across the country.  Faulkner was the tall, lanky athlete with a deep voice and slow drawl. Brecheen, much shorter, had an almost elfin persona with twinkly eyes and a quick chuckle.

Over four years of college they would both meet their wives. Brecheen married Ethelyn “Smitty” Smith (’53) of Colorado City, Texas, on Oct. 21, 1952. While Carl completed three graduate degrees – an M.A. and M.R.E. from Harding University in 1955 and 1956, and a D.R.E. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1965 – they added two daughters and a son to the family, all of whom graduated from ACU.

Carl was born Nov. 26, 1929, in Hollis, Oklahoma, where he graduated high school in 1948. After earning his bachelor’s degree from ACU, he preached full time in New Blaine and Oil Trough, Arkansas, and Rhome and San Angelo, Texas, before moving to Abilene.

In retirement, Carl and Smitty found ways to minister to families and others who benefited from their deep experience and innate kindness. They invited a series of newly single moms, each recovering from divorce and learning to navigate solo parenting, to breakfast once a week for as long as they needed the prayer and wisdom doled out with coffee and a simple breakfast at the Brecheens’ kitchen table in their house on Cedar Crest, just blocks from the campus.

As Faulkner tried to describe his friend of 70-plus years, the word he kept coming back to was authentic.

“He had an amazing ability to teach a class, to teach lessons out on the road, and in his conversation with me and I with him, he was authentic in every aspect. It was totally him. They were all woven together,” Faulkner said.

Faulkner has now moved to Fort Worth to be closer to his daughters, but for several of the last few years he lived in Abilene and spent one morning a week sitting with his old friend so Smitty could have some time away to get her hair done or run errands.

“He was good at everything – heart, mind, soul, family, God – he had it all together,” Faulkner said. “And it was still there when I was with him when he couldn’t talk anymore.”

“He was my very best friend,” Faulkner said. “I could be kind of ornery. He never was. He was just amazing.”

He was preceded in death by his parents, E.R. and Inus (Yowell) Brecheen; a brother, Pat Brecheen, D.D.S. (’54); and a sister, June Brecheen Cope (’50).

Among survivors are Smitty, his wife of 67 years; two daughters, Patti (Brecheen ’81) Fite and Stacy (Brecheen ’85) Truitt; a son, Marcus Brecheen (’84); and 10 grandchildren.

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  1. Avatar Dee Fry says:

    I was a student at ACC, 1971-74. I have a lot of memories from those years, but one stands apart from all the others. I was raised in a very legalistic church environment. One day in Family Relations class, brother Brecheen called on me and I made a comment that clearly reflected my upbringing.

    I don’t remember what brother Brecheen said, but it wasn’t what he said, but rather the way he said it that set me in the right direction and changed me from that moment on. His reply came in the most perfect combination of kindness, and yet firmness, I had ever encountered. It was literally life-changing.

    Over the years, I’ve wanted to drive from my home in Ft. Worth to Abilene, just to thank him for what he did that day. But I never knew how, when, or where I could see him with such a full schedule that he had.

    Anyway, thank you brother Brecheen for correcting me in front of that whole Family Relations class, it was exactly what I needed. You will be greatly missed by countless people.

  2. Avatar Reg Cox says:

    I have my graduation photo pasted over my ACU diploma…I am walking across the stage at Moody accepting my graduation papers while many of my friends hoot it up loudly in the auditorium. Behind me on the near stage is Dr. Brecheen smiling in a near laugh. I love that shot.

    I got to take the Marriage/Fam class as did many of my generation in the 80’s so we could get that last Bible credit. In class Dr. B would ask someone to lead a prayer. The class was held in Walling Lecture hall…over 100 students in there and a bit of an intimidating place to offer a prayer. I got asked to lead the prayer several times by Doc…one time I found out why…after the prayer Dr. B complimented my prayer. He said that you could tell when someone really knew how to pray and that my prayer had substance.

    Those words changed my life. I still pray daily and in public or private, since that day in class, I have entered into prayer differently. More reverently. It means something different to me to address the maker of the universe.

    It is an honor to have attended a University that gave more than an education. It gave us a chance to be transformed into men and women of faith character. Dr. B was one of the champions of this heart molding transformation.

    Years later when I returned to campus to work Dr. B encouraged my work to start a new church plant, supported me in Chapel leadership and was ever ready to give the weighty wisdom that time and experience forged in a leader. He entered into every one of these conversations making me feel first like his friend, not his project.

    I am a better man and Jesus lover because of Dr. B. I live grateful for his friendship.

  3. Avatar Mark Baldwin says:

    As an ACU college student from 1980-1985 Carl & Paul were household names amongst the students and their marriage enrichment series were extremely helpful. I lived on the same floor of Edwards dormitory as his son Marcus. My prayers are with the Brecheen family and all that your family means to so many people – thanks!!!

  4. Dr. Brecheen influenced me to enter the field of marriage and family therapy and enrichment. His Family Relations Class was a “must take” course at ACU for many years. He was the first elder I ever interviewed with, over a relaxed lunch to become the Campus Minister for the University Church of Christ. He was the consummate teacher, professor, therapist and marriage enrichment speaker.

  5. Avatar Kay Kendall says:

    Can you send me a link for Brecheen’s family relations catalog.
    Thanks

  6. Avatar Steve Sikes says:

    In 1992 Carl asked me to be a part of his ACU prayer group. The next year Carl asked if he could mentor me and another person in doing marriage seminars. He said he and Dr Faulkner’s marriage enrichment schedule was full till 1997 and others should be trained in doing what he and Paul were doing. Carl and I worked together till 1996. Years later when our oldest daughter, Jessica, was a student at ACU and suffering from constant migraines, Carl and Smitty reached out and opened their hearts and home to her. The Brecheen’s were a constant source of mercy, kindness and encouragement. I also discovered the same spirit and heart in their son, Markus. This is a true statement: Being around a Brecheen smothered in the aroma of Christ —just makes life better! Thanks, Carl. I know I represent hundreds you took under your wing as you lived out 2Timothy 2:2. To God be the glory. Love and respect you my brother & friend.
    God is good all the time.
    Steve Sikes

  7. Avatar Sharon Thut Rodriguez (81) says:

    Such a Godly man that set a beautiful example for all! He was without a doubt my favorite professor. I always remembered his 4 minute rule for a married couple, to have quality time the first four minutes of the day, the last 4 minutes before you leave the house, the first 4 minutes that you return, and the last 4 minutes before you go to bed. Such a wise man!

  8. Avatar Cloydia “Dia” Moore says:

    I am so thankful for the marriage enrichment seminar that he put on with Paul Faulkner. They encouraged the most important 16 seconds of the day. 4 sec. upon waking, leaving, greeting after work, and end of day. The last thing my husband Craig told me as he hugged me was”I love you,” little did I know it would be the last works he spoke to me. Thank you Caul and Paul.

  9. Avatar Julianne Maeyers Jones says:

    I was a youngster when the Brecheen family was in Rhome. I will always remember them as a warm and loving family. My mother, Lela Maeyers was baptized into the church by Bro. Carl and she was the driving force for our family steadfast attendance. His legacy outlasted his and her lifetimes as God is in her husband and children’s lives to this day. The Maeyers family sends you love and thanks.

  10. Avatar Judith Busch says:

    Carl performed my wedding in 1963 – a marriage that lasted almost 50 years until we were separated by death.

  11. Avatar Jill Holaday says:

    We benefited from their Marriage weekends.
    May God bless your family and Paul’s.
    Jill & Tom Holaday

  12. Avatar Hiram Brown says:

    God has not given me the eloquence to begin to tell the story of what a treasured friend he was to my parents and others associated with ACU and the University Church in the latter half of the twentieth century. I pray that he and my dad have already exchanged hugs and shared the looks of men who know what it is to set aside the sometimes very hard limitations of living in a fallen world.

  13. Avatar Jan South says:

    It was my privilege to be “Dr. Brecheen’s” secretary for 10 years. He was the kindest, most caring boss anyone could have. I always felt like part of the team in organizing Lectureship, Bible Teachers Workshop and Family Enrichment programs. It was an honor to work for him.

  14. Avatar Deanna Brooks says:

    Carl was my team leader on a 5-week campaign to Edinburgh in 1965. I quickly learned he had a beautiful caring heart for God, Smitty, and all of us on the campaign. We kept in touch through the years…he was amazing with Paul in their seminar. My prayers are with Smitty and the family…and Paul…as well as the ACU family and others who loved him. He was a blessing!

  15. Avatar Muriel Holt says:

    I was blessed to be in Carl and Smitty’s home on numerous occasions. What a tremendous blessing he was to the ACU students and to married couples who attended a Marriage Enrichment seminar. Prayers of comfort to the family.

  16. Avatar Sharon Winkler says:

    Oh, how I loved and respected that man! Dr. Brecheen had a huge impact on my life at the college level and as a young married person. His wisdom was from heaven! Blessings and peace be with the family as they mourn the loss, and celebrate the life. Best regards, Sharon Winkler

  17. Avatar Kelly Barrett says:

    Genuine and good…he and his roommate had a direct impact on me. Just talked to my daughter about these two men and their marriage enrichment seminars yesterday! God Bless this family and his friends.

  18. Avatar Aleta Brown Caraway says:

    In addition to being two of my parents’ closest friends, Carl and Smitty were two of my favorite adults while I was growing up. His influence on me is indelible. I am so grateful to have known him.

  19. Avatar Julie (Summerhayes) Harper (82) says:

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful tribute! Carl will be sorely missed on earth, but there is a huge party going on in Heaven tonight.

  20. Avatar Donna says:

    Attended several of the Bratcher and Faulkner marriage seminars. Great men love their story of such a long Christian friendship. From someone that was touched without either men knowing it. Prayers for this lovely family. Donna Elliott.

  21. Avatar Rebecca Douglas Kinzie says:

    I dearly loved Dr. Brecheen. My heart is filled with such joy remembering how much he influenced me in such a positive way by his kind gentleness. I also loved hearing him whistle, so beautiful. I know he’s singing and whistling with the angels. I love you Smitty and send our love from our family to yours,

  22. Avatar Connie and Miller Morrow says:

    Very sad day for us, too. Dr. Brecheen was such a stellar person in our lives. We met with him and he counseled us on our decision to start a family (33 years ago). What a lovely man and such a great marital example that he and Smitty are to us. Go with God, Carl Brecheen. We’ll see you again

  23. Avatar Grace McIntyre says:

    Smitty
    Am so sorry you’ve lost Carl. He was a dear. You may not remember that I was at your wedding. I think I came with Mary.
    Probably Pat too!!
    Prayers for you.
    Grace wales McIntyre

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